Sunday, July 20, 2014

Career Reinvention at 52

Today is my Birthday, I am 52 years old.  When I graduated from high school my mother was 42, at that time I couldn't contemplate ever being 42 much less 52.  My goals at 18 were to get as far away from my family farm in western Wisconsin as possible and to live a life as unlike my mother's as I could.  I envisioned my life to be much like my high school French teacher's. She lived, what seemed to me, a cultured life in Madison, Wisconsin and traveled to Europe each summer. Unfortunately my life didn't turn out quite like that.

Instead all I do is work.  When I'm not working I'm thinking about work or not sleeping because I'm stressed about work.  As you may recall last year I didn't use nine of my earned vacation days and this year I'm heading in the same direction.  It is always something - a deadline I am required to meet, an audit that needs my attention or a meeting I am required to attend. This week I went in while sick to calculate commissions that were too difficult to explain over the phone. Part of the problem is my company's A-type work culture and part is my ingrained dairy farmer work ethic. A small dairy farmer never takes a vacation day and has to milk the cows even when sick.

My only plan of escape is to retire early.  If all goes well that will be six years from today.  One of my former co-workers retired early last November.  He too had an over-developed work ethic. As a stress reliever he began counting down his work days until retirement.  Instead of answering the phone with hello he would say "232 days."  The other day while commiserating with another co-worker about our heavy workloads I said, "6 years and 3 days."   He replied, "Don't start that."  He thought our retired co-worker's count down was super annoying.

I don't want to become the annoying co-worker with the bad attitude and besides 6 years is a long time to be miserable.  It is also a long time to never take a vacation day and to work while sick. Plus, I don't think I'm the type of person who could lounge in retirement bliss. I will want to do something. Instead I need to figure this out and somehow reinvent my career. Ever since I started blogging I've had visions of living where ever I want and making a living in some fashion from my laptop. Doing what is the question.

My favorite career reinvention post is James Altucher's The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself. He says it takes five years to reinvent yourself.  Here is his recommended five-year plan:
  • Year One: you’re flailing and reading everything and just starting to DO.
  • Year Two: you know who you need to talk to and network with. You’re Doing every day. You finally know what the monopoly board looks like in your new endeavors.
  • Year Three: you’re good enough to start making money. It might not be a living yet.
  • Year Four: you’re making a good living
  • Year Five: you’re making wealth
So in my 52nd year I plan to read everything and start to Do.  Altucher claims reading 200-500 books are equal to one good mentor. I'm not going to write about how difficult it is to find time to read.  I love reading, so I'm just going to get busy and read.  I will keep you informed about what I learn.

I also plan to continue my career interview series.  My interviewees have been informative, passionate and helpful. If you would like to be part of this series please email me at

Have you reinvented your career?  If so, what helped you the most? 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Don't Believe Anyone Else's Fears

One of my favorite sections in Jenn Aubert's book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!: 100+ Successful Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Tips on What Works, What Doesn't (and Why) ... a Business and Designing a Life You Love is the chapter titled Gems of Wisdom. It includes business advice from the over 100 female entrepreneurs Aubert interviewed for her book.

I especially enjoyed this gem from Michelle James the CEO of The Center for Creative Emergence:
Give yourself space, time, and attention to hear your inner source of guidance. Let it surprise you.  And don't believe anyone else's fears - the naysayers - it's a reflection of their fears. (Pg. 214)
I immediately thought of my brother and his never ending torrent of business ideas.  When he asks me to evaluate them I am almost always negative; he will lose his home, never find another day job and his family will end up living in a van by the river.   This quote helped me realize my objections are more about my fears and values - I value security - than his ideas.   

Shawne Duperon of Shawne TV provides an example of the advice I should be giving him:
Get cash flow handled.  BE sure to have at least 3 primary clients so you can generate and play in marketing. Don't borrow money for PR.  Cash flow is king and lowers fear so you can play.  (Pg. 218) 
Since I know he likes a good investment tip, this one is for you B:

At a recent seminar Bruce Johnstone, CFA was asked where he would invest $100,000 today:
He began by reminding the crowd interest rates will not remain as low as they are today, so first he would leverage his real estate.  Then he would use that money along with the $100k to invest in early stage venture capitalist projects such as purification of fracking water, developing insulation products and waste to energy products.  He would invest in all of these before solar and wind. 

There you have it younger brother, if you decide to go ahead with his plan don't ask my opinion because Johnstone lost me at the word leverage. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge

Welcome to our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. Over the past couple of years Tanya of Mom's Small Victories has enjoyed participating in the Around the World in 80 Books Reading challenge. After  discovering the host blog went down she's decided to bring back this challenge with a new name and new goals. Becca of  I'm Lost in Books  and yours truly are partnering with Tanya in hosting this challenge.  Without further adieu I am excited to bring you:


The Goal

Travel the world in books, of course! Expand your horizons and read books set in or written by authors from countries other than the one you live in. Visit as many different countries in books as you wish.

The "Rules"

And the "rules" are simply this...YOU choose your own adventure! These are your goals but you can change them any time.

1. Determine length of time you will participate in the challenge. Just one month, An entire season, a year or 5 years?

2. Determine how many countries you would like to read about during your adventure. What criteria are you using to determine the number of countries you read about (ex. book setting, author background or both)?

3. How will you track the countries you visited in books? You could create a map in Google Maps, track on your blog or on a Goodreads shelf.

4. Determine your book list or genre if you like. Will you be listing specific books you would like to read? Do you aim to read fiction, nonfiction or a mixture of both?

5. Link up your posts. Linkies will be available for sign up/goals, wrap up, and a linky for each continent for you to add your book reviews whenever you are ready.

6. Please follow each of our 3 hosts by at least one social media or bloglovin, RSS, GFC so you can keep informed of news, updates and events regarding this challenge.

We have a Travel the World in 80 Books Readathon in the works for September! That's it, are you ready to travel the world in books? Grab the button and "arrivederci", "bon voyage", "sayonara" and enjoy your travels!


For my challenge I am going to read 50 nonfiction books that take place in 50 different countries other than my own over the next five years.  I've created a Pinterest board to create my progress.
The challenge begins July 1st, so please head over to Tanya's site to link up your sign up post.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I Need To Be More Optimistic

I admit it I prefer cynicism and a good negative rant over Pollyannaism any day. My rejection of the happiness movement began when I attended a positivity lecture with a friend at her church while in my twenties. The minister proclaimed acquiring a positive attitude along with donating money to his church would attract good things to our lives. If we believed we would become a millionaire we would become one. If we believed we would find true love we would find it. I remained skeptical while my friend got out her checkbook. Reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America probably did not help my pessimistic tendencies.

Last year while traveling with a co-worker I mentioned I had never read and didn’t believe in the premise of Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret. She spent the next two hours trying to persuade me I was wrong insisting changing her attitude had changed her life. The day after she had decided to become a more positive person an unexpected check arrived in her mailbox. I was not convinced.  

It took Jenn Aubert and her book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!: 100+ Successful Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Tips on What Works, What Doesn't (and Why) ... a Business and Designing a Life You Loveto help me understand the deeper benefits of a positive attitude. She writes:
One of the main traits seen time and again in powerful leaders at all levels is positive framing. It should be no surprise that to manage the roller coaster that is running your own business, you have to keep an outlook that looks for the silver lining in situations. But it goes beyond just having a rose-colored perspective. It is also about seeing things for the way they are and taking the facts as facts rather than spinning stories that are not true or – for that matter – useful. (Pg. 47)
People who frame things in a positive light don’t let negative feelings paint their reality in a negative way. They see things for what they are and learn from them. They understand that they’re in control of their future and can influence future outcomes, learn and grow. (Pg. 48)
During the 2002 recession the company where I work was hit incredibly hard. The owner had been on leave caring for his sick wife and had left the management of his company with his two inexperienced sons. After our company’s bank refused to renew our contract he returned to save his company. Over the next month he contracted a new bank to provide a line of credit and to take over our existing loans all at more favorable interest rates than we had previously. He negotiated long-term notes with five of our major vendors to pay off outstanding payable balances over the next two years. He downsized and cut costs in every area possible. Ultimately he saved his company. I am not sure if any of this could have been achieved if he were not an optimist. A more negative person would have just sold the company’s assets to the highest bidder.

During the great recession my company was again hit hard. Our owners again down sized and cut costs. They mentioned several times how they never would have made in through the great recession if they hadn’t experienced almost losing their company in 2002. They are convinced the changes they made in 2002 had made the company stronger and better able to withstand future financial set-backs. Talk about a silver-lining.

While Jenn Aubert was interviewing Stella Grizont the founder of WOOPAAH she learned:

Maintaining a positive attitude is deeper than just being optimistic and looking on the bright side. According to Stella what is most important is a belief in your vision and seeing ways to maneuver difficult situations and challenges. While a leader within the Ladies Who Launch organization she worked with thousands of women helping them maintain a positive frame by seeing the possibilities, taking the next step and taking account of one’s previous successes. This valuable tool of reframing situations, challenges and obstacles is a skill that can take you far. (Pg. 48)

I had been missing the true benefit of optimism. I had realized people prefer spending time with positive people and those with a positive attitude were more likely to be hired, make friends and find a mate. But I also thought those who believed in the happiness movement had been brain-washed into thinking all they had to do was be positive and good things would miraculously appear into their life. In reality ridding yourself of negative, trapped and I hate myself thoughts frees up your mind to come up with real solutions.

Perhaps it is time I let go of my own negative attitudes and work towards becoming a more optimistic person.

If you would like to learn more about Jenn Aubert and her book Women Entrepreneur Revolution please see my interview with Jenn Aubert.

Have you embraced the happiness movement?  Why or why not?
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interview with Jenn Aubert author of Women Entrepreneur Revolution

One of my goals for this blog is to read and recommend career books for women. I’ve found a few good ones over the years, but honestly have to say Jenn Aubert’s book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!: 100+ Successful Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Tips on What Works, What Doesn't (and Why) ... a Business and Designing a Life You Love is one of the best entrepreneurship books for women I have read to date. In addition to providing small business and entrepreneurial advice it includes real-life examples from 100 different entrepreneurial women. I’ve never encountered this in a book before. Almost all of the books I've read have been written by men and were about men's businesses. A few years ago I read a blog comment written by a female commercial lender stating all women business ideas were lame – every single one of them. Obviously this commenter needs to read this book.

I will be writing additional posts in the next few weeks based on the lessons I’ve learned from Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready!.  Today I am delighted to share my interview with the book’s author Jenn Aubert:

What motivated you to write “Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch?
Many small moments led to the writing of Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!. The final 'ah ha' moment happened in the Fall of 2012 after having noticed my book shelf filled with books on business all having been written by men. It was simply an observation. Out of curiosity I went to an online forum of women business owners I belong to and asked them who they were reading, who they were following and learning from, and who are their role models. What surprised me was how few women had noted female leaders and entrepreneurs as role models - other than Oprah. Oprah is fantastic but she can't possibly be the only role model for every woman starting a business. I knew I had to figure out what was going on so. That’s when I decided to take a year and ask 100 women who inspired them and how they've created success for themselves.

Who are your female role models?
I have so many now I feel like I need a board on my wall to remember them all. Each inspires me in a different way. One of my role models is a woman I used to work with when I was in the corporate world. Before she became an executive recruiter she was a co-founder of a biotechnology company and was previous a bench scientist involved in cancer research. She is one of the coolest, most generous, loving people I’ve ever known. I admire her grace under pressure and her ability to lead in a more feminine style.

Others that are newer to my stable of role models is Alexis Maybank of Gilt and Jessica Herrin of Stella & Dot. They both have created significant empires in areas where people thought they were nuts. Alexis is a strong leader in the technology community while remaining approachable. Jessica has created a company that helps women create a flexible living for themselves. Both are also moms.

What is your why and why is that important?
My why is that I want to help women build a sustainable business that will enable them to fulfill every passion and desire they have. My why has been around for years but only recently have I discovered the how to do this. The book is a start. My next venture, LearnSavvy, is the next phase.

What was your biggest surprise or lesson learned from interviewing over 100 women?
I was surprised how willing busy successful women were to take the time to speak to me. They were incredibly kind in giving their time, sharing their wisdom and helping a fellow woman pursue her dreams.

In terms of lessons, many women gave the advice of asking for what you want and need. I realized that I have been terrible at that in my professional and personal life. Over the course of the year and having that piece of sage advice reiterated over and over, I’ve become more brave in my own life in terms of asking for what I need.

Is it possible to attain a work/life balance?
While I was interviewing the women for the book I was franticly trying to find my own balance. I was managing my business and a toddler while interviewing, researching, and writing the book. Trust me, I was asking how other’s were doing it because I felt like I was drowning.

What I found was there is no one answer to the question, “How do you balance family and work?”. Everyone has their unique ways to integrate the two, knowing that true balance will never happen. That’s the one relief that came out of talking to over a hundred women. That no one really has the answer - the magic solution - to “having it all.” And quite frankly, it’s ok.

The key is to honestly do the best you can, ruthlessly prioritize what you most value and let go of things that just aren’t that important. There are only so many hours each day so honor that time and focus on what is most important to you.

What do you know now that you did not know when you were 18?
I think at 18 I was more focused on what I should do and be. I planned on majoring in International Relations thinking that I wanted some high paying corporate job traveling the world. I realize now that you can create the income you want in such a variety of unique ways while living a life that really fits you. You don’t have to have an MBA, wear a suit and sit in the corner office to make a really fabulous life for yourself. But that’s all part of life. It takes doing a lot of what doesn’t fit to figure out what does. It’s like dating, you have to go out with a lot of guys to find just the right one.

Is there anything else we should know about you or your book?
I’ve been surprised to hear from women who are not business owners, that they have gotten so much out of the book. I’ve heard stories of women being inspired to take more risks in their corporate roles and of women taking more bold steps in their philanthropic work. It truly warms my heart that this book is helping women everywhere become the best versions of themselves.

Thank you Jenn.  I am already looking forward to your next project - LearnSavvy.

Who are your female role models?  Please share in the comments below.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book prior to this interview.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How to Compete With a Bully

It’s been awhile since I've written about the human resource manager (and family friend of our company's owners) who personally attacked me at work:

I had run into her as she was walking out of a heated meeting with my boss. Upon seeing me she went into a tirade about how I was the worst manager my company had. This incident along with continued difficulties working with her have plagued my career and self-esteem ever since. This was also the impetus behind my be strong challenge a couple of years ago.

As for the manager herself, she has slowly lost power in my company. After she recommended two of my employees be fired during last year's salary review I went to our President and complained. I learned she’d already informed him my employees weren't up to her expectations and he was now furious. He had told her he would never allow her to fire them and neither would his father or brother. He was angry she was still talking about this. From now on he wanted her focusing on the projects he assigned her and to stop causing trouble in my department. He must have talked to her because she avoided me for at least a month afterwards and hasn't complained about my employees since. I still find it difficult working with her and have to remain on guard or I am blind-sighted when she does whatever it takes including lying to make sure she looks good.

Then a couple of days ago we were both in the restroom at the same time. She told me she had injured her knee in a boot camp exercise program and could now barely walk. Looking at herself in the mirror she burst into tears. She said she never felt this frumpy before in her life. She asked if I ever felt frumpy. Careful not to provide details, I truthfully responded with yes - every day. She pointed out how my hair was not grey while hers, according to her son, could use a good coloring. We then had a real conversation about aging (we both turn 52 this year), dieting and exercise. I ended up recommending she make an appointment with my orthopedic.   

She is now visiting my office regularly giving me updates on her knee. I started thinking this is nice, if she were like this all the time I might actually be able to work with her. Then all of a sudden I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu. I’ve felt this way before. Growing up my parents used to fight every day. Eventually it would get so bad something big would happen – there would be a big scene, my mother would seriously threaten to leave or would leave. Then they would make up and life at home was calm. I would think this is nice, I wish it would stay like this. Of course it never did and I’d eventually wake up to the screaming again.  I then realized it won’t be long before this manager is back to her previous shenanigans.

I thought about her telling me how she was competing with the other members of her boot camp class when she hurt herself. I thought about all the conversations we've had over the years and realized most of them included a competition –  a competition where she did or said everything she could to come out on top.

I was thinking about this today as I read Carolyn Hax’s advice in her column Dad Can't Stop Daughter From Measuring Herself Against Sister. Carolyn responds with:
The only reasonable path Younger sister can take to feeling good about herself is to do the best job she can at being Younger. Using anything or anyone else as a point of reference is bound to fail. 
And so I decide how I’m going to compete with the HR Manager in the future - I am not. I’m going to work on being the best me (a 52-year old accounting manager) can be and not worry about her. She has her own demons to wrestle with. If I’m content with myself and my work she will not be able to rattle me. 
Have you ever competed with a bully at work?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Journalist Interview: Q & A with Sarah-Jane Darcey

Today I'd like to welcome Sarah-Jane Darcey all the way from the UK. She shares her career story including how she continues to adapt in the ever-changing field of journalism.

How did you decide to become a journalist?
I’ve always loved writing, and studied for a degree in promotions.  During that time I specialised in journalism and dabbled in running my own online magazines.  After that I simply started contributing to outlets online and eventually I was writing for publications that were more high profile.

Can you describe your career history and current projects?
The bulk of my work has been as a fashion and lifestyle journalist, and I have written for Hello! Magazine, The Daily Sport, and been an official Beauty Insider for --Superdrug.  I’ve also blogged professionally and worked in areas such as copywriting.  In terms of current projects, I’ve just launched a new site for female writers and bloggers called Women In Their Own Words The aim of the site is to showcase authors and women who run their own blogs or businesses and provide useful tools and inspiration for others who’d like to get into the literary industry.

Would you recommend this same path to someone starting out today? Why or why not?
I think that journalism has really changed over the past few years, with such a shift towards digital content, more and more journalists are getting into the industry through new paths such as blogging. Whilst this is obviously a fantastic opportunity to get into professional writing that just didn’t exist five years ago, the market is getting crowded and bloggers are becoming more powerful, edging journalists out. For example, bloggers are being invited to fashion week with more traditional print journalists, and their resulting copy can usually be ready in a much shorter time and instantly reach thousands of online readers. There are short cuts now if you’re open to them.

Obviously professional training is never going to be obsolete, and a combination of a journalism qualification mixed with online experience is probably the best route, but there are other ways into the market now if you can capitalize on them.

What do you like best about your work?
Right now I’m working with lots of lovely writers, journalists and poets for Women In Their Own Words, and they have plenty of inspirational stories to tell and lots of great advice to share. Hearing how they’ve done it and how creative women are making writing work for them and their lives is a lot of fun and drives you on to become better in your own work.

What is your biggest headache?
It’s definitely not a headache but there’s a lot of admin that goes with setting up a website and business, and growing an audience for a start-up. It’s been great to connect with more people within the industry and we’ve had a great response so far so that’s really encouraging.

What are the important personal qualities or abilities necessary for a person to be a successful journalist?
The ability to research thoroughly, being able to cope with deadlines, and obviously you’ll need excellent language skills such as spelling, grammar, vocabulary, proofreading and editing. I think it’s also important now to be multi-skilled, and being able to use design software, produce and edit multi-media content or code websites makes you more employable. The days where journalists just wrote content are disappearing, and now they need to be able to design graphics and produce photography to go alongside their text. Self-promotion skills are also key, so you need to understand how to market yourself and get your work seen.

How many hours do you work each week?
Definitely not enough! As much as possible I try to I work long days, seven days a week. You have to be motivated and self-reliant to work freelance, and when I’m not working I’m reading books for review or thinking up new ideas, or trying to promote the new site on social media. I wish there were more hours that I could work!

What do you wish you would have known before becoming a journalist?
That the industry is changing. Journalists are in a precarious position in terms of the rise of digital content and blogging, and freelance competition is huge. People are getting their content from Instagram or Twitter, or from reading blogs or websites for free, rather than paying for magazines or newspapers. Lots of bloggers now call themselves journalists, and to an extent all of us are reporters and journalists now as we our chronicle our daily lives.

Things have also changed now in that journalists are no longer faceless hacks working behind the scenes to report the news or put out stories. Readers want to know who you are, rather than just what you have to say, and are invested in the lives of their favourite bloggers and writers. 

Are there any books you suggest reading, training courses that would be beneficial or professional organizations aspiring journalist consider joining?
Women In Their Own Words has a section for journalists, interviewing women who are already up and running in their careers, and reviewing books which would be of use to anyone interested in the field. I think if you’re looking to get into journalism, or writing in general, then you should be reading as much as you can, magazines, books, blogs, whatever you can get your hands on. Aside from that the usual industry suspects are the NUJ and, and there’s a wealth of information online. Savvy Working Gal is a great resource for working women in general.

How much can a journalist expect to earn?
This varies greatly according to the publications you’re writing for and whether you’re working in-house or freelance. Paid online opportunities can be hard to come by, especially with the rise of blogging and so many people who are willing to write for free in return for some exposure or freebies or to build their portfolios.

I see you are a member of The WoMentoring Project a mentoring program for creative types. Can you tell us more about this?
I’m currently mentoring with The WoMentoring Project, which offers free professional advice to women who wouldn’t normally have access to literary advice. You simply browse the website until you find a mentor who seems the best fit for you, and then follow the application process.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about yourself or your career?
I hope Savvy Working Gal readers will be interested in joining us at Women In Their Own Words and following us on our journey to grow the site. Many thanks to SWG for allowing me the opportunity to share my story with you!

Where can we find you?
My own website is online at, and Women In Their Own Words can be found at and I’m also on Twitter, @sarahjanedarcey